Form and feeling: John W. Carlson and Steven Standley at NY’s Field Projects

By Steven Standley.

This Valentine’s Day, two Cleveland-based artists will open an exhibit in the nation’s art capital. Next week, The Carlson/Standley Experience will open at Field Projects Gallery in New York. The show is named for the contributing painters, John W. Carlson and Steven Standley. Though the style and content of both artists diverge from one another, they complement one another.

Based out of the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, Field Projects also hosts pop-up displays throughout New York. Its exhibitions are fueled by artist submissions and guest curators. Carlson and Standley’s show is curated by Shari Wilkins, a fine art photographer and executive director of the Cleveland Print Room. (Carlson and Wilkins are also workspace neighbors, with the Print Room and Carlson’s studio being just a few paces from each other within the Artcraft.)

Best known for his expressionist paintings, Carlson’s images are “gestural” in at least two senses; his brushstrokes are unconcealed and dramatic, and his subjects splay and contort their bodies to communicate operatic emotion. Painted with limited but vivid colors, the men and women of Carlson’s paintings grapple with existence itself. They sulk, wince, bare teeth, hide their eyes, crumple into the ground, and cling to each other. Their postures and gestures are raw depictions of struggle.

By John W. Carlson

Standley has served University Hospitals in several leadership capacities, including chief administrative officer. He is also an abstract painter with a knack for containing chaos inside order, and vice versa. Free, fluid brushstrokes intersect with hard lines. Crystalline forms lurk in black and copper haze. Yellows and whites puncture darker greens and grays; these skillful contrasts creates effects like fluorescent paint, or light dappling through leaves or clouds. Standley’s paintings evoke an experience similar to noticing a solid object in thick fog, but being unable to recognize what it is.

The Carlson/Standley Experience can be thought of as a conversation between a figurative painter who uses elements of abstraction, and an abstractionist who uses figurative elements. Like the Mannerists, Carlson does not aim at visual realism, but uses unnatural color and exaggerated body shape and bearing to convey unmistakable emotion. Nothing about Standley’s work is unmistakable—its substance is mystery and ambiguity. We see the contours of a question, but no way to answer it. Both painters confront audiences with human limitation—our straining against pain, and against uncertainty.

An opening reception for The Carlson/Standley Experience will take place Thursday February 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. It will run through February 23 at the Field Projects Gallery, located at 526 West 26 Street, #807 in New York, NY. The gallery is open from 12 to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. For more information, go to

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